These words you are reading on your screen right now are not as important as they seem.
The focusing illusion is fundamental to our thinking process. Daniel Kahneman describes it when he says “nothing in life is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it”.
The focusing illusion is important from an evolutionary perspective. The moment something catches our attention, we are wired to consider it as being important – like the smell of smoke, movement in the grass or bright red fruits in the bush.
But in today’s world, this tendency distorts our perception of what is essential. All those extra words in that long-winded speech seem important to its speaker. In a long email that could’ve been conveyed in three sentences, every word seems important to our colleague who is composing it. This blog post could have certainly been shorter. Every creator struggles with leaving in the essential and editing out whatever isn’t.
Similarly, our environment is filled with noise, vying for our attention. The ringing desk phone has been replaced by smartphones chiming in each of our pockets. And once we look at them, we accord them more importance than they are worth.
An essentialist has trained herself to cut through the noise and pick out the essential. A seasoned journalist distinguishes herself from her peers by listening to the same conference, but writing a more compelling report about its essence. A journal is a record where we revisit the most important moments of the day. It isn’t a coincidence that journal and journalist are derived from the same root.
Hindsight comes with the benefit of being a better judge of the essential than the present moment. Therefore, a regular journaling practice can be an effective antidote to the limitations of the focusing illusion.
Inspiration: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – Greg McKeown